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Maxed Out: Introducing a new grading system for Whistler council hopefuls

'We’re electing the folks who are going to make decisions affecting our lives, livelihoods and the future of the town'
max pie wingnut
Sharpen your pencils (or crayons)—the test is about to begin.

The upcoming municipal election is going to be an important one. Duh. What a dumb statement. They’re all important. We’re electing the folks who are going to make decisions affecting our lives, livelihoods and the future of the town. Sounds important to me, and it should to you. 

So how do we best decide who those people should be? Read what they have to say about what they think is important? Listen to them when they speak? Judge them on their grasp of the reality of municipal political power? Peer into their souls? 

Oddly enough, that last one might be the key. Let me elaborate.

Four years ago, Happy Jack, Whistler’s mayor, ran on a number of issues. That he ran unopposed was tragic and at least partly my fault. Nonetheless, he had a platform, even if he didn’t have an opponent to compare it to.

Among his issues were housing, naturally; the environment, specifically eliminating single-use plastics—whatever they are; delivering on the Community and Energy Climate Action Plan; pursuing a regional transit plan; and investing in Whistler, which included a new home for the museum, finishing the Valley Trail, finding more daycare spaces, creating more hiking trails and conjuring a transit lane on the highway where none exists currently. 

Then along came covid. 

Many of those issues vanished like a fart in the wind. Jack spent a lot of his time dealing with the pandemic’s fallout instead of his proposals. He stepped up and did a reasonably good job of dealing with covid, far better than many other politicians across the country. 

We didn’t have a clue when we voted how he would handle covid, because none of us had ever heard of it and he never mentioned it, since it didn’t yet exist. But we might have gotten a glimpse of his potential to deal with the unexpected had we peered into his soul.

Nonetheless, as one disreputable politician south of the border said, you go to war with the army you’ve got. I’m not sure what that has to do with this, but sadly, what the candidates say is about all we’ve got to go on to shape our decision who to vote for. And what I’ve heard so far from some of them has led me to develop a two-pronged rating system for the ideas, plans, dreams and craziness of what they’re saying. A plan based on easy-to-identify, every day items. 

Pie—as in pie-in-the-sky—and wingnuts.     

Pie-in-the-sky proposals are so unachievable they live up to their name. A good example might be an international airport in Whistler. While perhaps not impossible, it is so aspirational it is a concept only likely to be successful in an alternate universe.

Wingnut proposals, by comparison, are just crazy. Even if possible, they’re so far outside anything that would ever be approved in this town that even suggesting them demonstrates a tenuous grasp of reality. A high-speed rail link to Vancouver will suffice as an example.

To demonstrate how this rating system might work, I’ll review some of the Never-Ending Party’s ideas from past Campagnes de Fous.

The N-EP has, over the years, put forward a number of employee housing plans. One was to move the municipal works yard—north of Nesters at the bottom of the hill—to the old Capilano Highways works yard just south of the village. In its place, we’d build a trailer park for employees. The site just screams trailer park, being a flat expanse of asphalt hidden by a grove of very tall trees with adequate services in place. 

As much as that proposal would provide very affordable, well-hidden housing for workerbees, I’d have to give it one pie and five wingnuts. This is probably a good time to say five is the maximum score. While being easily achievable, cheap even, it would never be approved even if we called it a modular home village. Just not up to the highfalutin Whistler standard, don’t you know. Kind of like man camps in that regard.

By comparison, the N-EP’s other employee housing proposal, converting the Whistler golf course into a nine-hole course and building housing on the other nine, is probably a four pie, one wingnut idea. It would only be done over the bodies of local golfers and Tourism Whistler, therefore unachievable. But it sure isn’t a crazy idea.

One of the high-profile planks in the N-EP’s platform dealt with Whistler’s “problem bear” population. It called for an immediate prohibition, within municipal boundaries, on shooting bears that have become habituated to human food, er, garbage. Instead, we’d humanely capture the hungry bruins, muzzle and declaw them and create the Whistler Bear Experience™, the activities of which would include a petting zoo for the kiddies, the Running of the Bears™ down the Village Stroll every afternoon at après, and bear wrestling in the bars at night for a substantial charge to drunken patrons who are crazy enough to think they can pin a full-grown bear. Ya listening, Joey? 

While undoubtedly objectionable to PETA, it’s hard to argue against it when the alternative is continuing to kill bears. The bears get what they want (garbage), we divert waste from the landfill, we garner oodles of free, international publicity money can’t buy, and the tourists get their fill of bears. With climate change threatening ski season, it just might be a key part of our tourism future. One pie, half a wingnut; doable, not crazy, but way bolder than most politicians’ thinking.

The key proposal of the N-EP was to get the province off our backs by establishing the Resort Principality of Whistler. Modelled on other highly successful principalities—Monaco, Andorra, Liechtenstein, but with elected princes and princesses—we would be our own country within B.C. and Canada, a tax haven Canadians sorely need, independent and prosperous. All three principalities mentioned have mutually beneficial relationships with the countries bordering them. They use currencies not their own and have little or no national defence. Their presence raises the profile of their appurtenant countries. Win, win, win.

One pie, zero wingnuts, and thinking way outside the box.

And if you think there are no ideas that could possibly score zero pies and zero wingnuts, think again. A long list would start with prohibiting bars, restaurants, hotels and municipalities from melting the snow we depend on for skiing by heating the great outdoors with propane patio heaters during cold weather. 

So that’s the plan. The hopefuls’ proposals will be graded on the five pie and wingnut scale and their overall score distilled to the same. Now I’d suggest they sharpen their pencils—crayons if they’re not allowed sharp objects—bone up on the role and limitations of municipal politics, figure out how to play well with others instead of aspiring to be thorns in their sides and keep their heads out of the clouds.